Jacqueline Gold on Ann Summers and being one of Britain's most successful businesswomen

One of Britain's most successful businesswomen, Jacqueline Gold is a shining example to women looking to make it in the often male dominated world of business. Matthew Williams caught up with the charismatic chief executive of Ann Summers, which has its head offices in Whyteleafe, near Caterham, to find out all about her top tips for making your millions

Since becoming chief executive of Ann Summers in 1987, you have turned the company into a multi-million pound empire. What would be your most important piece of advice for succeeding in business?

The most important advice is to believe in yourself, don't let negative thinkers put you off, and sometimes, despite what the experts are telling you, you might have to go with your gut feeling.


You took over at Ann Summers at a time when chauvinism was rife in the male dominated upper echelons of the business world. As a young woman, did you ever worry that you wouldn't be taken seriously?

Absolutely. When I started in business, I thought that women in business should look like, act like and emulate men, so I used to dress in power-suits with shoulder pads, and my hair up, and wore glasses. Then one day, someone said that I looked like a politician and I finally realised that women should be women!

If, like me, that is to be feminine then great; if it is to look like a tomboy then that's great too. You should be whoever you are and not change and conform to other people's expectations. I was so much happier when I started being myself.

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You have been credited with feminising the sex industry - would you agree with that?

Yes, Ann Summers has been responsible for - and indeed pioneered - the change in the perception of female sexuality. Although Ann Summers are NOT sex shops, we have brought sex to the high street and made it accessible to women, whereas before sex was all about men.

Now women can go into an Ann Summers and feel relaxed in a comfortable boudoir environment to buy their lingerie and sex toys.

After the success of the Ann Summers parties, it was always my intention to then transfer the concept to the high street. Now we have 136 shops located in every major high street and shopping centre in the country!


Many women see you as a role model - was there anyone you particularly looked up to, or aspired to, growing up?

That's great... I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved at Ann Summers.

When I was growing up, there were not any female role models in business so I am happy that I can be one for a new generation. I just wish that there were more successful female businesswomen.


Do you think business is still very much a man's world then?

Yes, of course! Business is dominated by men in the UK and that needs to change as women have so much to offer. Fortunately, the signs are that things are changing, as there seems to have been an explosion of women business forums and clubs, which is fantastic.


What advice would you give to women who feel they have reached a glass ceiling at work?

Change jobs! If your current job doesn't appreciate you then go elsewhere. Don't let them put you off. Your destiny is in your own hands.


Did you always see yourself going into the business world or did you want to be something else growing up?

I never imagined ever going into the business world. I was always very ambitious but it was only by chance, at the age of 19, that I did work experience at Ann Summers. Then, when I was invited to a Tupperware party, I saw the opportunity for Ann Summers parties, and the rest is history!


Do you think you have to be really cut-throat to succeed in business?

Definitely not; I think that is very much a man's perspective. I think to succeed in business you need to be hard working, a team player and a good listener.


What would you say is behind your determination to succeed?

I think what drives me is the great enjoyment I get out of working. I love Ann Summers and every day is different with new challenges.


Has your father, David Gold (one of Britain's most successful businessmen), been a big inspiration to you?

Yes, of course. My father has been a huge inspiration. He is a wonderful man and great father. We didn't know each other very well when I was growing up, as my parents divorced, but after starting work at Ann Summers we have become great friends. We meet up once a week with my sister to have dinner all together to catch up on each others lives and talk business.


Many women find it difficult to achieve a good work/life balance - is this a problem you have ever encountered?

At the beginning, I definitely was a workaholic and that was probably one of the reasons my marriage failed when I was in my 20s. However, now I have a great work/life balance and realise that this is very important.


Do you watch The Apprentice and, if so, what do you think of Sir Alan Sugar?

I love The Apprentice and watch it religiously. Although I don't necessarily agree with Sir Alan's management skills! Funnily enough, I recently took part in a celebrity edition of The Apprentice for BBC One's Sport Relief.


Would you ever consider being a dragon on Dragons' Den?

I was asked to do the original series of Dragons' Den, but it wasn't right for me at the time. I have, however, done other series like Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway on ITV1, The Verdict on BBC2, and Mind Your Own Business on BBC1. I like to do as many different things as possible and that is what is so rewarding in my job.


Do you think money makes you happy?

No, but it certainly makes it easier.


To date, what has been the proudest moment of your life?

Being invited to Buckingham Palace last year to meet the Queen at a reception to celebrate women in business! Who would ever have imagined that, when I first started in business 25 years ago?!



My Favourite Surrey...

Restaurant: The Tree House, in Croydon, which is the best restaurant I have been to locally - the food is great.

Shop: The Ann Summers shop in Croydon of course! The best shop in Surrey!

View: From my father's house in Caterham... It has such a beautiful view across his garden and the Surrey countryside.

Place to chill: Addington Palace. I go there to have their fantastic treatments when I need some pampering.

Place to visit: Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. It is just the most amazing place with its critically acclaimed restaurant and its fabulous garden centre. I love my garden, so garden centres are always great places for me!